Staff Interview 3: Nancy Matthews

Interview with former Literacy Coordinator, Lead Practitioner in the Teaching and Learning Faculty member, Homework coordinator, English teacher and long serving teacher (since 1997) at Haggerston School; Nancy Matthews.

Is there a Gap between student knowledge and what they are expected to know?

"Yes!... it becomes very obvious when you teach a student with cultural capital.. they stand out"

Nancy exemplified her point of view through a student she taught who gained their cultural capital : ..Through parents jobs, political leanings, reading culture at home led to students having a huge advantage when it came to analysing a text for context.

....Many of our EAL students experience issues because at home their talk is all in other cultures...

Nancy talked about the positive impact of the old AQA anthology 'poems from other cultures' and the way in which this opened up a cultural dialogue for many EAL students and students from a wide range of backgrounds.

What can we do to increase students' cultural capital ? 

- more trips, "debates at the house of commons"... "the physicality of actually being there..suddenly made it real"

- the recently reads (where teachers put a picture of the book they have just read on their classroom door): but widen this out across the faculties

- use more culture in lessons - such of the use of classical music in English

Changes to the English Specification: 

- Shift back now to English authors (as opposed to American)
- "Formal poetry". 'Nothing modern"
- There is some value in this though.. maybe this a good thing that we are teaching them classical texts.

Nancy talked candidly also about how she felt she lacked cultural capital when she was growing up and when she arrived at university and was asked to discuss Chaucer she found that difficult.

She would advocate teaching classical culture because "its there (on the curriculum)".

"The GCSE at the moment is quite narrow....I want students to know about the cultural capital.. but not at the expense of the modern texts there has to be a range (mixture)".

Internet Age changes: 

The TV in her household growing up was a source of "low class" cultural capital; nature documentaries, the news etc even this has now gone and been replaced as young people now pick and choose what they want and only watch what they want.


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